That horsemeat has been detected in another ground beef product in the United Kingdom is by no means surprising. The latest news, however, comes dosed with a fair bit of irony: Taco Bell’s “taco meat filling,” which was the subject of a class-action lawsuit in 2011 after it was revealed that the “beef” was only 36 percent cattle flesh, is one of three new meat products found to contain horsemeat.
As we’ve noted in our previous coverage on this issue, the scandal here isn’t about eating horse—it’s that the implicit trust between a restaurant and a diner is broken when “beef” isn’t actually beef.
But just as we all known the sleekly designed coffee table you bought at Ikea is made of sawdust and cardboard, binders and fillers—and maybe just a little bit of actual wood—it should be widely understood that the beef at Taco Bell is ground-meat equivalent of particle board (encased in the attractive veneer of a Doritos-flavored taco shell, naturally). To wit, the ingredients in Taco Bell beef circa 2011:
Beef, water, isolated oat product, salt, chili pepper, onion powder, tomato powder, oats (wheat), soy lecithin, sugar, spices, maltodextrin (a polysaccharide that is absorbed as glucose), soybean oil (anti-dusting agent), garlic powder, autolyzed yeast extract, citric acid, caramel color, cocoa powder, silicon dioxide (anti-caking agent), natural flavors, yeast, modified corn starch, natural smoke flavor, salt, sodium phosphate, less than 2% of beef broth, potassium phosphate, and potassium lactate.
To its credit, Taco Bell has improved on both the beef-content and transparency front. According to the company’s website, its taco filling now contains a whopping 88 percent beef, and the makeup of the other 12 percent are explained in a brospeak ingredient FAQ. But as the response to one non-question suggests—“Modified Cornstarch Seems Weird”—this is a marketing opportunity, not a nod toward true disclosure: “Actually, it’s derived from corn, which is a food stable in Mexican culture as well as many others.” And we all know how far removed the modern state of corn is from traditional maize.
The Irvine, Calif.-based chain only has three locations in Britain, and after the contamination was brought to its attention by the Food Standards Agency, it voluntarily tested the beef at each of the locations. According to the BBC, all of the contaminated beef, which was traced back to “one supplier in Europe,” was removed from sale.
And for those of you who are waiting with bated breath for the debut of Cool Ranch-flavored Doritos Tacos Locos? According to a statement Taco Bell sent to Business Insider, you need not fear the neigh:
"Our domestic restaurants have not been, and will not be, impacted because we do not use any meat from Europe. We stand for quality and we use 100% premium beef. Like all beef in the United States, ours is USDA inspected and then passes our own 20 quality checkpoints."
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